Month: March 2015

INF530 Blog Post 2 – Creating Connections and Opportunities for Shared Learning

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Creative commons licensed by Flickr. Shared by Heather.

 

In a distracted moment I read a recent TES magazine article, about teacher burnout. The article and the comments that follow support the notion that teachers are part of a dynamic career, potentially making a significant impact; but with a downside that the more we care about making this impact, the more we need to work. Individualised learning, formative assessment and information overload including the need to constantly learn as our environment changes can really take a toll. Bawden and Robinson refer to the paralysing effect of TMI, leading to a “do what you did last time” response; which in an educational context may see us take backward steps into chalk-and-talk. My desire to improve is why I am here, late at night after a seriously chaotic and challenging day in a school, stretching my brain in the hope that I might improve my practice. It is through this tired and mildly pessimistic lens that I have investigated the ideas of connected learning for educators as well as students.

The 2001 United States education initiative “No child left behind” is a noble ambition (standardised processes aside). This notion is reiterated in education across the world with educators focusing on individualised learning and the fact that all students can and should be given appropriate opportunities to learn. However, as Hargreaves articulates, the US rhetoric also requires that no teacher is left behind either and this requires us to learn continually.

I find that I regularly return to a frustration around teacher professional learning (PL). Organised PL to support pedagogical progression often misses the mark, is poorly timed and/or prohibitively expensive; however, the evidence around me echoes Louise Starkey’s argument – teachers need to believe and see the worth in revised practice, including connected models of learning, to deem the effort to change worthwhile. This has led me to question how a change in pedagogy to support connected learning can be encouraged and how this can be done without seeming like just another new and probably passing initiative. My late night idea is to do exactly what we as CSU students are doing: What better way could there be to learn about connected learning than to experience it in practice?

Sheryl Nussbaun-Beach and Lani Ritter Hall note that technology easily enables connection and collaboration. However, “most important are the relationship that learning technologies make possible” (2011. P.10). The authors advocate connected learning for educators as a viable means to ease the challenge of learning. Nussbaum’s Twitter research found a desire amongst educators that echoes the learning desires of many contemporary students – immersive, anywhere/anytime, personalised and collaborative are some recurrent themes (2011, p.3).

Humans are social creatures and I would argue that much of our informal learning arises from social connections; whether it is a staffroom conversation about a strategy that works or an Edutopia post that we find and share. Learning through connection and collaboration is both more available than ever before and highly likely to enable deep learning and change practice. Forging partnerships with business and industry, developing connections with others to evaluate learning, teaching a concept to a peer or engaging with virtual learning communities online are all socially stimulating possibilities that will enhance learning for both teachers and students.

Such possibilities inevitably require experimentation and significant planning, but once attempted can pave the way deeper, more relevant learning experiences. Surely where people are engaged with learning, our energy can be reinvigorated to evaluate, refine and continue the evolution of our practice. The more we can share content, resources and ideas, build professional learning communities, team-teach and connect with others to evaluate our success the less likely the incidence of burnout and overload.

 

References

Bawden, D, & Robinson, L. (2012). Information society. In Introduction to information science (pp. 231-249). London : Facet.

Brown, J.S. (2000) Growing Up: Digital: How the Web Changes Work, Education, and the Ways People Learn, Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 32:2, 11-20, DOI: 10.1080/00091380009601719

Digital Education Advisory Group. (2013, May 31). Beyond the classroom: a new digital education for young Australians in the 21st century. Retrieved from https://docs.education.gov.au/system/files/doc/other/deag_final_report.pdf

Edutopia: What works in education. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org

Hargreaves, A. (2003). Beyond standardization: professional learning communities or performance-training sects? In Teaching in the knowledge society: education in the age of insecurity (pp. 160-188). New York: Teachers College Press.

Nussbaum-Beach, S. and L. R. Hall (2011). The Connected Educator: Learning and Leading in a Digital Age, Solution Tree Press.

Starkey, L. (2011). Evaluating learning in the 21st century: A digital age learning matrixTechnology, Pedagogy and Education, 20(1), 19-39.

Times Educational Supplement Magazine UK. I’m exhausted – and my family pay the price. (2015, March 27). Retrieved from TES UK: https://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=11006786

 

Blog Post One

As I finish most of the reading for Module One and consider ideas about my own position in the digital cosmos, I am caught up in thinking further about the debate over Prensky’s concepts. I had not really given them much critical thought until starting MEKNDI; previously assuming that there was considerable merit to the terms in light of each generation’s exposure to technology.

Following further examination, my main concern about Prensky’s digital natives/immigrants concept is that it creates assumptions about generations of people based on their age. The digital literacy of young people in schools today is so vastly varied and it must not be assumed that they are all equally skilled/knowledgeable. Such assumptions can also lead us to ideas about digital literacy that are at odds with Paul Gilster’s original definition of the term. Just because many young people are skilled users of their devices does not mean they are able to make the connections and interrelate using technology to demonstrate understanding. I think this alignment with understanding as the key indicator for successful use of technology relates to Prensky’s reconsidered “digital wisdom” concept referred to by DaCosta, Kinsell and Nasah .

The flipside of my concern is that for many of my colleagues in the “immigrant” generations, the  labeling provides them with a debilitating reason to give up. How often do we hear or even say something to the effect of “how can I possibly keep  up” with young people who are using technology all of the time. At this point of overwhelming realisation of their own limitations, many time-pressured teachers may give up. It can seem very consuming to change practice and invest in new skills, but essentially I do not see that there is a choice. If we want to be teachers of the next generation then we must change what we do, see ourselves as life-long learners and invest in processes that will enable us to get on with valuable teaching and learning for the current generation.

DaCosta et. al refer to Prensky’s idea that digital immigrants  “see learning as a task, which involves effort and work”. However, I would argue that whilst younger generations may relate more to learning through play, that these characteristics are important for all learners and also that game play is most certainly a platform that requires effort and work. However,  game play also involves failure and reattempt and aligning these ideas in an educational context is what I think is truly new. One of my favourite theorists, Carol Dweck, writes about the concept of a growth mindset and the value of failure. This value, which in assessment terms can be known as formative rather than summative, is something that I think has great merit as a feature of contemporary education. Despite the huge amount of extra marking, I am currently working through the resubmits of a class of design submissions. The vast improvements since the first submission tell me that this extra work is of great value as my students have demonstrated real learning. Not just failure and a D grade and a final report to indicate where they went wrong.

Personally I have very mixed feelings about my capacity as a teacher and learner in our digital world, and my summation of where I am at changes with the experiences of the day. In a new school, suddenly immersed in an unfamiliar mac world, I have had to learn an immense amount to stay afloat over the last six weeks in my workplace. In this time I have frequently felt like a digital immigrant! I am hoping that INF530 will progress my skills, knowledge and consequently my confidence. As reflected in the research conducted by Downes and Bishop, I am hoping that this investment to develop my own skills, knowledge and awareness will ultimately make me a better teacher and leader.

 

References

Bawden, D. (2008). CHAPTER ONE: Origins and concepts of digital literacy. In Digital Literacies: Concepts, Policies & Practices (pp. 17–32). Peter Lang Publishing, Inc. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.csu.edu.au/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=lih&AN=39774960&site=ehost-live

DaCosta, B., Kinsell, C., & Nasah, A. (2013). Millennials are digital natives?: An investigation into digital propensity and age. In I. Association (Ed.), Digital literacy: concepts, methodologies, tools, and applications (pp. 103-119). Hershey, PA: . doi:10.4018/978-1-4666-1852-7.ch006

Downes, J. M., & Bishop, P. (2012). Educators engage digital natives and learn from their experiences with technology. Middle School Journal, 43(5), 6–15.

Dweck, C. (2006). Mindset: How you can fulfil your potential. Constable and Robertson. London

Ito M, Cultural Anthropologist Mimi Ito on Connected Learning, Children, and Digital Media. Retrieved from: http://youtu.be/xuV7zcXigAI

 

INF530 Beginnings

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Image source: http://cdn.static-economist.com/sites/default/files/images/print-edition/20131207_WBD001_0.jpg

 

Hello kind readers,

I am both excited and terrified at the idea of starting this unit and as I am already a week behind, the second emotion is starting to take over!

I am an Art and Design teacher in the Catholic secondary system in Canberra. I have spent the past 5 years working as a coordinator in a girls’ school, teaching only Art/Design and working as Year Coordinator with the Year 12s of 2014. Their completion of school meant it was a good time to look for a new job and a challenge and this I have most certainly found.

I started MEKNDI in July last year, looking for a push to extend myself and a structure to build my skills in the use of classroom technology and educational innovation. It has been a whirlwind so far and I have learnt a lot. Commencing this qualification helped me to gain my new role, teaching in a catholic college in its third year of operation. It is a school seeking to innovate, where leadership value growth mindset in all capacities and students spend 2 days each week engaged in self directed learning.

In my role as a coordinator I am looking after a house group, the arts and technology subjects, I have a mentor class and I am teaching 4 different subjects – Art, IT, English and Religion. I also have other big picture responsibilities that I will find my way around as the year progresses.

It is a very exciting place to be and very relevant to my study in this Masters. I have new perspectives to compare with my old ones, contemporary spaces to teach in and new technologies to explore. At the moment however, it is feeling very overwhelming, particularly when I add in my study and family responsibilities :/ I am hoping to find my way through these challenges, ride the wave rather than drowning in it and continue on the life-long learning pathway.

OK … time to start immersing in INF530 rather than skimming the surface (very thankful for the ACT holiday tomorrow!).

 

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